This spring, 120 rheumatologists, rheumatology health professionals, and patient advocates travelled to Washington, D.C., for the ACR’s annual Advocates for Arthritis conference. The advocates attended more than 200 congressional meetings urging Congress to support:
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- A reinstatement of consultation codes;
- A permanent fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR);
- Legislation to ensure access to osteoporosis testing;
- The Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act (H.R.1210/S.984); and
- A continued increase for arthritis research funding.
Prior to visiting Capitol Hill, the ACR hosted an educational session to engage members in various health policy areas. During the session, health policy leaders addressed many hot topics and areas of interest to better prepare attendees for lobbying both at Advocates for Arthritis and after they returned home. Speakers and highlights from the session included:
- Ed Herzig, MD, RheumPAC committee member, educated attendees on the importance of RheumPAC, the ACR’s nonpartisan political action committee.
- Todd Askew, director of congressional affairs for the American Medical Association (AMA), spoke about the AMA’s legislative perspective, the current climate regarding the SGR, and the latest developments in health system reform.
- Matthew D. Brown from the Physicians Regulatory Issues Team at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provided information on the latest developments regarding the regulatory burden on physicians who participate in Medicare.
- Stephen Katz, MD, PhD, director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), gave a presentation on current research programs and funding opportunities for rheumatologists within NIAMS.
- Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, discussed quality research initiatives to improve health outcomes within the agency.
- Meena Seshamani, MD, PhD, director of policy analysis for the Office of Health Care Reform, highlighted the administration’s strategies and priorities regarding healthcare reform.
- Peter Basch, MD, medical director of ambulatory electronic health records (EHR) and health information technology (IT) policy for MedStar Health, gave an update on meaningful use.
During the training session, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) personally accepted the 2009 ACR Award for Public Leadership in Rheumatology. She was named the award recipient for her leadership and dedication to the Medicare Fracture Prevention and Osteoporosis Testing Act (H.R. 1894), which would restore funding for preventative osteoporosis screenings. Rep. Berkley spoke about her passion for affordable bone density screenings and the need for individuals to become involved in the legislative process.
Additionally, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) delivered a keynote address at the advocacy welcome dinner, highlighting the importance of providing your message to Congress, educating them on issues affecting rheumatology professionals and patients, and the value of established relationships with legislators.
Advocates for Arthritis brings rheumatology health professionals and patients together to educate lawmakers on the importance of the rheumatology subspecialty and the impact arthritis and rheumatic diseases have on quality of life. “It is not only important to keep these issues in front of our legislators, but this event empowers people who often feel as though they have lost large chunks of their independence,” explains patient advocate Peggy Storck. “Advocates for Arthritis gives us a voice. As patients, we discussed how much this means to us.”
RheumPAC Supports Senator Blanche Lincoln
RheumPAC is gearing up to back the supporters of rheumatology in their 2010 elections and has provided Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) support for her upcoming election.
Sen. Lincoln is the lead sponsor of the Medicare Fracture Prevention and Osteoporosis Testing Act (H.R.1894/S.769), and she the primary reason that this provision was included in the final healthcare reform package. She is a true champion for the rheumatology community.
Interested in Advocating on Capitol Hill?
The next Advocates for Arthritis Fly-in will be held September 20–21 in Washington, D.C. The ACR is looking for passionate ACR and ARHP members as well as patient advocates to educate Congress on the issues affecting rheumatology professionals and patients. To learn more about Advocates for Arthritis, e-mail [email protected].
As the voluntary political action committee of the ACR, RheumPAC works to support and elect pro-rheumatology candidates. RheumPAC is nonpartisan and gives to candidates in all political parties. A candidate’s party affiliation is not taken into account when determining a contribution. The primary criteria used to determine RheumPAC support for a member of Congress are:
- The candidate supports rheumatology related issues; and
- The candidate holds a leadership position or key committee assignment; or
- The candidate was recommended by an ACR or ARHP member.
Members can make recommendations for RheumPAC support by visiting www.rheumatology.org/advocacy.
RheumPAC is the only political action committee that directly represents the interests of rheumatology professionals on Capitol Hill. Visit www.rheumatology.org/advocacy or contact Katie Jones at [email protected] for more information.
RheumPAC Establishes New Membership Tiers
RheumPAC has established new membership tiers, which are listed below. These tiers of membership are how RheumPAC members will be identified in the RheumPAC annual report.
Leadership Circle: $2,000 and above
Supporter: up to $249